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8 must-have products for a smarter studio

Running a successful design studio requires dedication, ambition, talent and a fair bit of business savvy. But you also need the right equipment to do the job.

There are certain tools every graphic designer should have on their studio shopping list, ranging from hardware and software to furniture and more.

Creating an enjoyable, fulfilling working environment goes beyond providing the basics, however. There are various ways to make your studio a better place to work, ranging from communal refreshments to flexible working.

Read on for our guide to eight great gadgets that will help make your design studio more stylish, productive and fun...

01. Stay alert with regular coffee

Smarter WiFi coffee machine

Tell this Smarter machine to make you a coffee using the app

Smarter WiFi coffee machine

Save time and automate your daily caffeine needs

Size: 27 x 21 x 42cm
Weight: 6.85kg
Capacity: 23 litres
Colour: Black and silver
Reasons to buy
+WiFi-enabled+Works with Alexa or Google Assistant+App for iOS and Android 
Reasons to avoid
-You may end up wired on caffeine

A communal coffee machine is a great addition to any design studio, and it's a great way to help fuel designers through those heavy project deadlines.

Take it a step further, save time and make everything run smoother by automating the process with a WiFi-enabled machine, like this one from Smarter.

You can adjust it to suit the preferences of individual team members, or regular clients – and schedule hot steaming coffee remotely using the iOS or Android app. It can also be fully integrated with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.

02. Keep the team cool in a heatwave

Evapolar personal air conditioner

The Evapolar air conditioner cools an area of 45 square feet

Evapolar personal air conditioner

Cool, humidify and clean your working environment

Size: 17 x 17 x 17cm
Weight: 1.3kg
Power: 400 watts
Colour: Black, white or blue
Reasons to buy
+Three-in-one: cools, cleans, humidifies+Relatively energy-efficient
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive way to stay cool

This is a neat little extravagance if your design studio finds itself in sweltering, dry heat over the summer and fans just aren't cutting it any more.

Claiming to be the first desktop personal air conditioner, the Evapolar cools, humidifies and cleans the air around your workstation, creating a perfect microclimate to get on with the task at hand. 

Each unit cools an area of approximately 45 square feet immediately in front of the device, which should easily cover a large desk or meeting room. It's portable, and relatively energy-efficient – consuming just 10W of electricity.

03. Add whiteboards anywhere for cheap

Think Board XL whiteboard

Think Board XL turns any surface into a whiteboard cheaply

Think Board XL whiteboard

Turn any wall, desk, floor or ceiling into a brainstorm zone

Size: 123 x 365 cm
Weight: 0.5kg
Colour: White
Reasons to buy
+Cheap and easy+Highly versatile
Reasons to avoid
-May be too lo-fi for some

There are plenty of digital collaboration tools for design studios on the market, but sometimes there's nothing more satisfying than the old-school analogue approach.

Think Board's XL whiteboard is a almost clear film that turns any surface – wall, desk top, floor, whatever you need – into a reusable writing surface for dry-erase markers.

It's as simple as peeling and sticking the film on: a lo-fi way to transform any space into the perfect venue for a creative brainstorm session with the team. 

04. Give your laptop a touchscreen

AirBar by Neonode

AirBar makes your MacBook or PC laptop recognise gestures

AirBar by Neonode

Impress clients using gesture control on your laptop

Size: 43 x 13cm (13.3-inch)
Weight: 50g
Colour: Silver or Matt Black
Compatibility: Mac or Windows 10
Other sizes: 14-inch, 15.6-inch
Reasons to buy
+Works on Mac and PC+Lightweight
Reasons to avoid
-You could just use a tablet

Ever found yourself instinctively reaching for your laptop screen to tap, swipe and pinch after spending a few hours working on your tablet?

Invest in an AirBar and you'll never have to check yourself again. This simple, lightweight device attaches to the bottom of your laptop screen with magnets, and connects via USB.

Use anything from a paintbrush to a gloved finger to interact with your screen. It works on Mac or Windows 10, great for impressing clients in pitches.

05. Automate common tasks with one touch

The bttn button

bttn can either be WiFi enabled, or work with a 2G data sim


Program your personal Big Red Button to do your bidding

Size: 10 x 10 x 7cm
Weight: 190g
Colour: White and red
Power: 4x AA batteries
Connectivity options: WiFi enabled, or 12-month 2G plan included
Reasons to buy
+Enormously satisfying+Easily programmed+Comes with 12 months' data
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive way to save time

This one's for anyone who likes a touch of drama in their day. If you've ever fancied your own physical Big Red Button on your desk, a bttn may be ideal for you.

While it won't summon a nuclear strike, or Batman, you can use it for plenty of other things. It'll save time, and give you a little smile while you do so.

Basically, your bttn can be programmed as a shortcut to products, services, or entire workflows. This could be anything from reordering supplies, to booking your favourite meeting room, to booking a taxi. Whatever you do regularly.

06. Reap the benefits of natural light

LifeLight Touch Natural Desk Light

Get a healthy spectrum of natural light at your desk

LifeLight Touch Natural Desk Light

Get the ideal light spectrum at your desk, even without a window

Size: 17.5 x 17.5 x 84cm
Weight: 3kg
Colour: Silver
Reasons to buy
+Flexible positioning system+Ideal spectrum of light+Cheaper than a new window
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive for a lamp

Research has shown that natural light is much more conducive to a happy, healthy, productive working environment than its artificial counterpart. But not all design studios can afford giant floor-to-ceiling windows to flood them with light.

One solution is the LifeLight Touch Natural Desk Light, a beautifully designed lamp that delivers the ideal spectrum of light required for peak performance.

It also comes with a uniquely flexible positioning system, which directs light from above to eliminate glare.

07. Share real-time notes with everyone

SMART kapp Capture Board (84-inch and 42-inch models)

SMART kapp Capture Board's 84-inch and 42-inch models

SMART kapp Capture Board

Share your whiteboard notes with up to 250 people worldwide

Size: 58.5 x 8 x 112cm (42-inch model)
Weight: 16kg
Colour: White
Other sizes: 84-inch
Compatibility: iOS and Android
Reasons to buy
+Works with dry-erase pens+Share with up to 250 people+Save notes digitally
Reasons to avoid
-Think Board XL is a lot cheaper

At the other end of the technological scale from the Think Board peel-and-stick instant whiteboard is this stylish offering from SMART Technologies.

Available in both 42-inch and 84-inch models, the SMART kapp Capture Board is both intelligent and fully connected, so remote team members, clients and collaborators can see what's written on them from anywhere in the world.

Best of all, you can write on it with the same dry-erase markers  you'd use on the Think Board XL. When you do so, anyone you've invited – up to 250 of them – can see your notes. You can also save them to your phone, tablet or computer.

08. Add an extra perspective to meetings

Meeting Owl Robotic Video Conference Camera

It looks like an owl... but it also captures meetings in full 360

Meeting Owl Robotic Video Conference Camera

Give clients and collaborators a 360-degree view in meetings

Size: 11 x 11 x 27cm
Weight: 1.2kg
Colour: Black
Microphones: 8
Camera: 360-degree
Compatibility: All major video conferencing platforms
Reasons to buy
+360-degree camera+Plug-and-play+Widely compatible
Reasons to avoid
-Very expensive

Give video conference meetings with clients an extra twist of character with the Meeting Owl, a robotic video conference camera from Owl Labs.

Its charming likeness to an owl is one reason to invest – but more importantly, it can capture incredible 360-degree detail around the room during your meeting. 

It uses audio and video cues to understand where people are sitting, and shifts focus automatically to highlight up to three speakers at once.

Just place it in the middle of the table and get started – the Meeting Owl has plug-and-play compatibility with all major web-based video conferencing platforms.

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Nick Carson

Nick is a content strategist and copywriter. He has worked with world-class agencies including Superunion, Wolff Olins and Vault49 on brand storytelling, tone of voice and verbal strategy for global brands such as Virgin, Pepsi and TikTok. Nick launched the Brand Impact Awards in 2013 while editor of Computer Arts, and remains chair of judges. He's written for Creative Bloq on design and branding matters since the site's launch.